Updated: Dec 12, 2020
We love innovative businesses. Even more, we love ones that make household chores simple. But above all, we are head over heels in love with ones that do all this while minimising impact on the environment 💚
We’ve come across many wonderful solutions that are sustainable alternatives to single use plastics. Think reusable bottles, keep cups, cutlery, bamboo straws, canvas shopping bags, and shampoo bars. But for the first time, we’ve found a real alternative to single-use garbage bags, and we love it!
TOMbag is a simple, upcycled, sustainable, and reusable garbage bag that can be used anywhere – at home, in the office, at school… wherever you need to put rubbish.
In Australia alone, households use over 3.3 billion single-use plastic garbage bags every year. This is equivalent to over 5,000 eight-ton semi-trailers. And doesn’t even include what is used by the commercial and industrial sectors.
Single-use plastic garbage bags are problematic because they are made with fossil fuels. They exacerbate climate change, pollute the earth and kill marine life. Unlike single-use plastic shopping bags, they never get recycled and thus are destined for the landfill. Adding to the problem is that garbage bags often leak and contaminate our environment - beaches, national parks, oceans and waterways – with their contents.
Shocking? Yes. And sad. Every year tens of thousands of marine animals are injured or die from ingesting plastic bags that are mistaken for food. But luckily, we have businesses like TOMbag working hard to reverse this problem.
This social enterprise is on a mission to rid the world of single-use garbage bags and replace them with their sustainable and reusable alternatives. They’ve developed the world’s first reusable garbage bag, made with recycled PET bottles, a product that is highly durable, washable and waterproof.
The company is run by a husband-and-wife team, Johnathan and Sasha Pestano. The idea was born when Sasha was pregnant with their first child, Lyla. Inspired by the award-winning documentary, A Plastic Ocean, Sasha decided to remove all single-use plastic items from their household before Lyla’s arrival.
But Sasha’s stumbled onto a problem when she couldn’t find an alternative to their single-use garbage bags. With no solution on hand, Sasha and Jonathan decided to build one themselves.
Fast forward one year and TOMbag is a member of The Social Enterprise Council of NSW & ACT (SECNA), and a finalist in the inaugural HATCH: Taronga Accelerator program run by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. Their reusable garbage bags are on the market for retail and business customers, and sold worldwide.
SUSTAINABLE AND SOCIAL MISSION:
TOMbag creates positive impact for the environment in three ways:
1. Their products are all created from plastic waste and don’t use virgin materials.
2. They eliminate the need for single-use plastic garbage bags with their reusable alternative.
3. Their product is tied to conservation activities: for each bag sold, TOMbag plants a tree in Australia.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TOMBAGS ARE GONE-BAGS?
TOMbag works with Terracycle to dispose of their garbage bags that need to be replaced. At the end of their useful life, customers can send their old garbage bags back to TOMbag who will ensure that they are disposed of correctly. In exchange for sending back your old bags, TOMbag grants customers a discount on the purchase of a new bag.
BUT I'M ALREADY USING A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION. AREN’T I?
One might think that an alternative to single-use plastic garbage bags already exists.
Compostable and biodegradable garbage bags are widely available and often thought of as an eco-friendly option. However, in their recent report, Greenpeace and The Environmental Investigation Agency named all bioplastics (yes, compostable and biodegradable ones, too!) as a false environmental solution. The reason for this is because any type of bioplastic draws resources from agricultural land. These are resources that would otherwise be used for more productive activities, such as food cultivation, and therefore cannot be considered a real sustainable solution.
But even more important to know is that biodegradables do not degrade in landfills. They require particular conditions to degrade, including temperatures over 50C, that are not met when in landfill. Instead, they can only break down into tiny particles, the same outcome as conventional plastics.
And when it comes to compostable bags, they too require special conditions. In order to break down completely, they need to be placed either into home compost or sent to an industrial composting facility (of which there are very few in Australia).
So at the moment there are really only two environmentally friendly replacements for single-use garbage bags. A naked bin (sounds exciting, but just means lining your container with newspaper), or a TOMbag.
Using TOMbags mean that you put the contents of the bag directly into the general waste bin. Sounds a bit naughty, right? Well…
IT’S OK TO PUT UNBAGGED GARBAGE INTO THE GENERAL WASTE BIN. REALLY!
In Australia, there is no national regulation preventing you from putting loose garbage into your general waste bin. TOMbag has contacted all the local councils across Australia and most confirmed that it is not against any law and even encouraged to put unbagged garbage into your main bin. The City of Sydney is one of these councils and they even wrote a blog post teaching their residents on how to line a garbage bin without using plastic garbage bags.
HOW CAN YOU BRING TOMBAGS INTO YOUR BUSINESS?
If you’re the Office Manager, Operations Manager or someone responsible for arranging the cleaning of your office you can:
• Talk to your commercial cleaning supplier about switching from single-use garbage bags to TOMbag reusable garbage bags.
• Explore how your cleaning provider can swap used TOMbag reusable bin liners with new ones and how they can clean them. This could be a simple wipe down using a damp soapy cloth if the bin is for paper waste. In case the bin is used for general waste, explore whether they can put used TOMbags into a washing machine for a 15min cold rinse cycle, then dry and reuse them (again and again).
And TOMbags aren’t just for businesses. With many people making the conscious decision to cut single-use plastics out of their lives, reusable garbage bags are a simple way to make the switch.